Saying “NO” and other ways to make time for yourself
Dear God, Did I just say NO??
I find it so interesting that most of my female friends have the hardest time putting themselves first. I find it the hardest thing to do in the world, and every so often I have to go back to the drawing board and reorganize my priorities.
From the moment my eyes open at 6am until my weary head hits the pillow at 10pm (if I am VERY lucky) I am spinning. Some of my friends who also work from home understand the challenge of keeping your work day going through the entire day and night, and how hard it is to carve time out of your day to just rest, meditate, breathe. It ain’t easy.
I decided to take an inventory of my day. Approximately 30% of my daily tasks could be delegated to other people in my family who spend much of their day lounging in front of a video game, browsing YouTube shopping channels, or browsing the internet in a closed office space in a respectable office in the great city of Chicago in between trips to restaurants for lattes, meals, etc.
Perhaps spring is in the air, and a natural change that living in a seasonal climate provokes. But change must come, otherwise the wheels on the bus will fall off, and not only will dinner not be made, lunch won’t be shopped for in a healthy way, home won’t be tidy, a team of professional help will not be booked for the entire family, quiet sessions with children for quality time will not magically appear, fitness will not keep the body strong, and God/prayer/meditation will not keep the whole engine running with life affirming, positive force.
So why is it so hard for women to put themselves first? I blame it on our incredible, undeniable ability to multitask and to us a tired term…”do it all”. We CAN do it all, let’s face it.
We can have children alone and manage quite well with a team we delegate to do what is not in our priority list if that is what we choose.
We can have a traditional family and manage that family in a way that previous generations ran companies: with spreadsheets, calendars, task lists, memos that accommodate time for one:one time with children, extended family, close friends, faith based groups, and our intimacy with our spouse.
We can run marathons, figure out the ailing parts of our bodies, how to fix them. We can research teenage hormone management in between business meetings. We put together a spreadsheet of solutions and implement plans for change. We source gorgeous, healthy food, take care of our aging parents, coach our kids mentally, physically and emotionally so they are fit and able to be fully functioning adults with a vital, faith driven life (if that is our choice, and it is mine.)
We earn money to provide for it all, we nurture relationships with uncanny communication skills with our girlfriends so that we bend when we would otherwise break.
Because we CAN do so many things, there is the temptation to ACCEPT the tasks that we can do and actually DO them.
But at some point, a priority list must be drawn up. There are only so many hours in a day. No matter what job some easy new device has deleted from one side of the equation, there are things on the other side of the equation we tend to build into our day.
But there is just no way to get away from a simple mathematical fact: zero equals zero. Ideally you are well above zero. If you are even, then you are doing okay-ish with plans to improve. When you go below zero, you are in trouble.
Lately my equation has gotten out of balance. Big time. In general, I am giving far more than I am receiving, and there is a negative balance sheet. Something’s gotta give.
This is when I call a meeting with my family and let them know what jobs I need to delegate to each of them.
It all sounds rather easy, but I can assure you that I twist and toil for days, weeks and sometimes months before I call this meeting.
This meeting is usually precluded by a member of my network of cohorts known as my best girl friends, my mom and my sister. I bounce ideas off of them, they bounce ideas off of me. Sometimes we have a breakthrough. Sometimes we give each other courage to utter the simple word “NO” to whoever or whatever we are giving too much of ourselves to that needs a boundary to be drawn. Sometimes we just lay together on the sofa or bed, belly up, exhausted beyond belief, hiding from our families and our jobs, uttering the words,
“Why am I so tired!?”
Usually our female panel of troubadours sings arias of praise for how much her friend is doing and how she has every right to be tired. Then we limp back to our respective tribes and courageously face our fears.
These may not seem like big fears to face! But saying “No” to a child, spouse, church, friend, or public service project IS a hard fear to face. It’s hard because we have become so accustomed to doing so much, we think we should run at that breakneck speed all the time, putting 100% into everything. A wise tennis playing friend recently told me, “You don’t need to win 100% of your shots to win the game, you just need to pick the RIGHT shots to win THAT game.” No wonder my tennis game stinks!
I realize that I am quite possibly addicted to trying to perfect every shot, and working for every person, care, concern and endeavor. It’s not necessary, and I am certainly not winning any games with this strategy. My friends and I try to give one another compassionate nudges to be brave and put ourselves first. We are an addicted bunch.
When we are addicted to caring for everyone, we find it hard to find time to care for ourselves. It takes courage. When it comes to other people, we are women who are not short on brave endeavors.
We are women who face courts of law on a daily basis. We advise the US government where they can or cannot conduct testing. We run successful businesses. We carefully place crack addicted babies into hospital care while the parents are escorted to prison. We manage millions of dollars in assets for others. We market billions of dollars worth of goods. We perform surgery on a daily basis. We teach our nation’s children, care for the elderly, fix problems, lead and serve. We do this all while Googling ways to make more dinners at home, and making sure our kids are not suffering in a way that lands the whole family in the loony bin.
So why is it so hard to say no and confront these other people we profess to love so much we have become addicted to caring for them?
It’s hard because we have to take inventory of what we do, decide what to delegate, and suffer the consequences of someone else not doing it properly. Sometimes it seems easier to just say yes anddrink a glass of wine to numb the pain.
Or run five extra miles.
Or fall asleep with your hand in the Doritos bag.
Or have a break down.
Life is hard. There is just no way around it. If we want to take care of ourselves, we are going to have to put ourselves first, and make some time for that inventory list.
Putting oneself first is a very, very difficult process to master. By the time we manage it, our kids may be gone. They may have kids of their own, (perhaps; if we are lucky). Then we will get to be on the other end of the phone while they suffer and try to figure out how to get that balance.
Because at some point, the caretakers really must take care of themselves. Properly. I don’t mean “I get to put myself first! I am gonna go to the grocery store all by myself! And not answer my family’s texts!” because that’s just multitasking.
Putting yourself first means REALLY putting yourself first. Here are some ideas.
- Scheduling an afternoon for you to do whatever you want, without thinking of anyone else’s needs.
- Making yourself a beautiful meal and eating it by yourself, by candle light, with music you like, and all the ingredients everyone else is “allergic” to, hates, or can’t eat because of their current brand of ethics.
- Setting a ten minute break on your iPhone every 3 hours to sit in total silence and just BE.
- Putting “Mammogram” on the family calendar and sneaking off to see you favorite movie instead, with a huge bucket of popcorn full of GMOs, fake fat, tons of salt, and never looking at your phone no matter how many texts you think build up.
- Going for a walk without your phone.
- Going to bed without your phone.
- Going to Target without your phone. And getting a cute pair of pajamas you always wanted without feeling guilty that you should have bought some for your daughter, son, husband, mother, aunt, uncle and the lady at church who looked sad last week.
- Preparing yourself a lovely plate of fruits and vegetables and eating them slowly, noticing every beautiful shape, color and texture.
We may be able to do it all. This doesn’t mean we HAVE to do it all. And we certainly don’t have to do it all every single minute of every single day.
So today I am finishing my work on time for once because I informed my family that I needed their help. I told them that they each have a list of new things to do. I told them NO, I will not be doing a, b and c anymore.
I am filling in those letters of my equation with numbers. These numbers what I need. They are numbers that my body, mind and soul need to become whole again.
With the grace of God, (and She is graceful!) I will come back to life with an even balance sheet.
I just hope and pray it lasts more than a week.
Today’s recipe is a HUMDINGER, and a TOTAL time saver!!! (Which will help us all have a little more time to put ourselves first, I HOPE!)
FROZEN TO FABULOUS SLOW COOKER WHOLE TURKEY BREAST
1 large frozen or fresh turkey breast (I used 7.5 lb Hollyhock Hill Farms free range turkey breast–check out their Facebook page to order!)
sprinkle of salt and a little water
Plonk frozen roast (or fresh–fresh will take less time) in slow cooker, put a little salt on it if want, and maybe a quarter cup water on bottom of pot (optional.)
Put slow cooker on low for as many hours as you can. Go to bed. (You will need at least 8 hours for frozen, but it’s okay to overcook a little, just don’t undercook.)
Wake up and test internal temperature to 165F.
Carve, eat on sandwiches, inside burritos, freeze for future use with rice, potatoes, tacos, you name it!